Cactus In Alberta

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Did you know Cactus grow wild in southern Alberta, Canada?

Prickly Pear cacti have actually been know to grow as far north in the province as the Peace River area.

In central Alberta, they have grown in our family’s flower beds for over 30 years.

The above picture is one of our beds of cacti here at the lake which had a building for shelter during the 2014 damaging hail storm. It has its first of many blossoms for this season.

Below is a before and after picture of a different flower bed that needed love this year. It use to be crammed full of large cacti like the other bed. Many of the plant’s in this one didn’t survive that hail storm a few years ago. The ones that did have been fighting their way back. Recent wet weather though is washing away the soil and the landscape ties trap rainfall leaving them often living in a water puddle. I can’t even keep up weeding the growing moss and wet soil grass.

It was a dreaded chore, but we removed all the cacti, dug out the grass and moss, filled the bed with 8-10 inches of sand, then separated and replanted the cacti.

I hope they appreciate the work and flourish once again.

Late fall these cactus will start to shrieval and lay over, ready to be covered with snow. Each spring they bounce back. As in the first picture, this variety gets large yellow blossoms in June or early July, depending on the spring’s warmth. Ours are later then usual this year.

Do you like unusual bedding plants?

Can you grow cactus outside in your area?

If you are wondering, how I weed these cactus beds, I use long handle pliers or a fish hook remover.

Prepare

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“Ruben” the retriever is prepared

This post isn’t me complaining, it’s a couple tips on how we do it, and an awareness reminder.

We’re just creeping out of a week long cold spell. What do we call cold, -30 Celsius or more (-22 Fahrenheit).

The other morning we woke to -41 Celsius, add the wind chill and it felt like -51. No need for a conversion here because at -32 Celsius and Fahrenheit equal out.

Here in Alberta, Canada, we often get teased that these temperatures are common. That is untrue, but this kind of cold is also not unheard of. We do get at least 1 real cold spell a winter, and they can be worse than this one. They can last hours, but usually days or the odd time weeks. They can bring more snow or not. They can come quickly, or like this recent one, give us days of warning to prepare.

I feel bad and worry about people who have to be out in freezing temperatures, going to work, working in, doing chores, going to school, or whatever forces someone outdoors. But, if prepared and dressed appropriately it is doable.

Country living certainly meant more preparing and was more work than here at the lake, and retirement has made these cold or even blizzard days less worrisome for sure.

It seems, we often end up with doctor appointments or something though, this week there was 2 which had us on the highways in the frigate temperatures.

Winter road travel means preparation beyond the obvious vehicle maintenance which is so important.

As soon as our snow comes to stay we start traveling with warm gloves, hats, snow pants, boots, a blanket, and there’s a fold-up shovel which stays in the van. For those who take less traveled routes, a more extensive emergency kit is suggested. Heat sources like thermal blankets, candles, and nutritional snacks for example.

A downfall of living and experiencing this type of weather, year after year, is we can get careless and somewhat disrespectful of cold temperatures. All to often you here it said, I’m just running to the store quick, I don’t need my big winter gear.

This rare but true short story is a reminder of why we should be prepared. It happened to a girlfriend’s sons friend, so I didn’t stumble across it on the internet.

He was alone driving a not busy highway during a winter blizzard when a series of unexpected things changed his plans. His little white car left the road stopping far into the snow filled ditch. In its resting place it was unseeable by the rare passing traffic. He wasn’t injured, but he wasn’t out of trouble yet either. The seat belt release mechanism was somehow damaged trapping him in his seat. There was no knife or sharp object handy to cut the now binding nylon strap. Yes, he had a cell phone. It had been on the centre console and durning the jarring off-road ride it slid off landing out of reach on the passenger floor. It was hours and hours before he was found, and by then frostbite had set in to some extremities. Last I heard, he hadn’t lost any, but recovery was painful and not short.

What habits have I picked up since hearing about this unfortunate fellow.

  • I keep that bulky winter-coat on while in a vehicle, especially on bad roads.
  • The phone is either in my pocket or at least in a cup holder.
  • A multi tool with a knife is within reach.
  • Let someone know if you’re going to be on the road, especially in bad conditions and if traveling alone, and let them know when you arrive at your destination.

It’s better to prepare than be sorry.

Of course you can’t be overcome with worrying about the what if’s, or prepare for every scenario, but do think over some possible things that could go wrong wherever you might be and take precautions.

On a lighter note, here’s a few tips if you’re inexperienced and find yourself in some extreme cold weather.

  • If you think you have to pee and you’re going outside, pee. Cold air intensives this urge.
  • If you’re going out to say, shovel, and you can see without your metal frame glasses leave them inside. Metal draws in the cold.
  • Oh, and if someone tells you to stick your tongue on cold metal, it’s not a myth it will stick and stick good.

Our favourite vehicle option for cold days is a heated steering wheel. Lots of people enjoy heated seats, but I find they make me colder when I have to go back outside.

When winter comes I know what’s in-store, and I choose to live here. You’ll hear me say I love winter, but that doesn’t mean you won’t hear me mutter now and then when we’re in a cold spell.

So to anyone who has to contend with a cold weather season. Bundle up in layers, travel prepared, and just maybe you’ll be warm and safe.

Are you a warm weather person, or do you like the 4 seasons of change?

It’s All In The Water

 

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This place is referred to as “Canada’s Dead Sea” because the natural mineral-rich properties of its water is very similar to that of the “Dead Sea of Israel”.

Whether or not you believe legends or current stories about curative powers of waters like these, that’s not what makes this place special.

Manitou Beach, (Canada’s Dead Sea) is no where near a coastline. It’s a spring fed lake located in the central prairies of Saskatchewan.

It is a True Hidden Treasure.

Manitou Beach, is a place rich with history, but also plagued with adversity. A village that could write a book about the meaning of perseverance.

Mister and I have visited many mineral pools, but never another with extreme natural buoyancy and soothing/moisturizing qualities like the waters of Manitou.

Since we discovered this gem of a place a few years ago, we’ve been to Manitou Beach a handful of times.

We’ve gone with friends, siblings, and have even gathered the kids and grandkids here for a weekend get-away.

Manitou Beach is one of Western Canada’s destination we recommend others to visit. 

We love visiting in the winter. Even though, summer businesses are closed, and enjoying the same buoyancy in the cool lake water is not an option.

Our place of choice to stay is, Manitou Springs Resort and Mineral Spa There is more summer rental choices in the village, plus a serviced summer campground on top of the hill.

Manitou Springs Resort and Spa is a, no need to step outside until you have to leave, type of place. The wonderful amenities and friendly staff make it easy to just relax and enjoy your stay.

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Inside the resort is a large soaking pool with 38 degree Celsius (100.4 Fahrenheit) soothing mineral rich water.  Plus, another large mineral pool at 34 degrees Celsius (93.2 Fahrenheit), this one has a deep end. I prefer hanging out in the deeper water where I can fully experience the extreme buoyancy by floating without effort in a standing position. Free, unlimited pool access is included when you book a room or suite.

To satisfy ones hunger the resort has a poolside cafeteria plus a family restaurant. In our experience both have great food and menu choices.

If you want to treat yourself to some pampering their European-style spa offers fantastic Swedish massages, reflexology, body wraps and other therapeutic and esthetic services.

There’s also a fully equipped fitness centre for those who enjoy a workout.

Browse their gift shop which carries a wonderful line of products made with their famous water, souvenirs, clothing, and a good selection of swim suits.

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Manitou Beach was a hoping destination for thousands of world wide travellers in the 1920’s and 30’s. Then, the depression and changes in the way people travelled took its toll.

In 1983, fire destroyed the original indoor pool. The new and existing one was opened in 1987. Trouble didn’t end there though for this village. Increased rainfall and snow run-off for a spring fed lake with no out-going streams means rising water levels. This issue has already consumed some beaches and roadways but, is currently being controlled with protective berms.

It’s not only the waters which has history and made Manitou Beach popular in its glory days. There’s also a dancehall which was known for its big name entertainment, and its desirable flooring system. The wood planks of the dance floor rest on braided coils of horse hair giving it movement and therefor comfort for dancing. The dancehall still holds occasional public and private functions.

Do you like relaxing in hot pools?

Have you heard of Manitou Beach, (Canada’s Dead Sea) before?

Have you ever experienced floating in natural buoyant waters?

What Are These?

You’ll came across six of these special overpasses when driving between Canmore, Alberta, and the British Columbia border.

For some 90 Kilometres/55 Miles, high, page-wire fences completely line both sides of the Trans-Canada Highway #1. They were erected to help prevent wildlife and vehicle collisions on this very popular and busy road which winds through, Banff National Park.

I read the fences have reduced animal fatalities by more than 80%, and for deer and elk the percentage is closer to 96%.

The unique overpasses like pictured above are natural terrain crossings. Built strictly for and used by wildlife.

The first two of the six to open were constructed in 1996-97 when the highway widening project began. At that time they were the only ones of the kind in the world. The rest were built as the road work continued.

What you may not notice while driving this road, (even we didn’t realize the number and we travel the path often), is there are 38 wildlife crossings which go under the four lane, divided highway.

As of 2012, eleven large species, grizzly and black bears, cougars, wolves, coyotes, moose, deer, elk, big horn sheep, wolverines, and lynx, have been recorded using the wildlife crossings. Plus, I think I read somewhere 108 small species.

Elk were the first to use the crossings. Some of the timid species like grizzly bears and wolves took up to five years to get comfortable enough to use them.

They discovered interesting data by monitoring crossing activity. For instance, grizzly bears, elk, moose and deer prefer high, wide and short in length crossings. Black bears, cougars, and mountain lions, prefer low, long and narrow crossings.

At the time of the projects completion, Banff National Park had the most numerous and varied wildlife crossing structures in the world. I’m not sure if they still hold that title.

Across the border in British Columbia the adjoining, Yoho National Park, also has fenced sections and wildlife crossings. Their newest overpass being a massive 60 meter/197 ft. wide one completed and opened in 2018. This is the widest of its kind to date. They have a couple smaller ones too, plus, I believe three under road crossings.

Sorry the picture isn’t brighter and clearer, but mother-natures skies, bugs, rain and snapping while moving made it difficult.

Have you seen special animal crossings on any road you’ve driven?

Have you heard of, or driven through, “Banff National Park” in Alberta, Canada?

Who Remembers

Who remembers cameras using film?

Who remembers taking the rolls into a photo shop?

The waiting sometimes a week for it to be developed? The anticipation? The hoping that picture of something special turned out?

Did you ever come home from a holiday and spend hours writing dates and notes on the back of prints? Or, did you put them in albums right away with side-notes?

I love that newer cameras and mobile devices allow you to check a shot before the moment passes, and that dates are recorded automatically. If you have location service turned on even where you are can now be recorded.

Years ago, when Mister and I did our cross Canada retirement trip, we had a digital camera which was a blessing for checking shots. At that time though, location service wasn’t even an option. Every evening I would download that day’s pictures onto my laptop, and we would name them before we would forget. In our defence, when you cover a lot of miles and see numerous highlights in a day, details are quick to blur and mingle.

I’ve pretty much switched to digital albums, because of storage space, but there’s nothing like having a photo album on your lap and flipping pages.

Have you stumbled across prints years later that you wish you would have taken the time to write on the back?

This just happened to me while going through some boxes.

Oh and remember the sleeves of negatives, seldom ever looked at again but too precious to throw away? I still don’t know what to do with them.

Do you get print copies and do photo albums, or just have digital albums?

Feeling Guilty

After sharing the posts, “Roses Take a Back Seat, and Fresh Growth,” I feel it only fair to show my starkest flowerbed. Taking this picture made me realize even calling it a flowerbed is an exaggeration.

Out of nine planted beds, this one in our back yard is a struggle, a work in progress, an embarrassment. This is a current picture (not this spring), and I have fertilized twice this season.

Over-the years I’ve planted many different things here and just can’t find anything that will thrive or often survive the winter. It use to be mainly in the shade because of a large tree outside our yard, but that was taken down last fall. Now, the bed gets morning and early afternoon sun. Maybe, I will have to switch varieties. I prefer flowers that come back ever year (perennials), but I have also tried annuals here.

The bush seems to have thousands of surface roots, so the ground hasn’t been worked up good for years, which I’m beginning to think is the main issue.

It could also be the resident bunny who usually hides out under the bush, but didn’t show up on picture day. Many of the flowers I’ve tried seem to end up as bunny snacks.

Do you have a planted area that grows better or worse than another?

What is your favourite hardy flowering plant?

Fresh Growth

Look who decided to grow fresh sprouts. This Rose bush is now towering over these lilies, which it has never done before.

Maybe, I gave it a complex in the past post when I stated how it takes a back seat to the Tiger Lilies when they are in bloom.

The only thing different I’ve done is more than usual dead-heading and pruning. Whatever the reason, I’m pleased. I can’t wait for all the new buds to open.

The colour of, The Sons, car seemed a perfect contrasting background to show off the new growth.

Are your flowers doing better or worse than usual this season?

Roses Take a Back Seat

It’s not often the popular “Rose” gets out shone, and there’s not always so much red in this flowerbed.

Our Tiger-Lilies bloomed later this year than most. Usually, they are in full colour while the rose bush is still budding. A spell of wetter conditions and less sunshine has them competing this year.

These Tigers are way ahead in getting attention and comments. People even stop to take pictures.

I don’t consider myself having a green thumb, but I can grow things and rarely kill a plant. These Tigers must just love their location, because they get big and bushy like this every year. I have a couple of the exact ones in a back flowerbed which are not near the size of these two.

There is one thing about the pictured bed that keeps me scratching my head though. In the little over ten years the Rose has been planted there I can’t seem to convince it it’s a bush, and that it could be taller then a foot. This year it’s even creeping sideways.

If anyone has ideas, please let me know. I’ve tried spring pruning or not, neither made a difference. Maybe, I should search it out, maybe it’s not suppose to be a bush.

Which flower caught your attention at first glance?

Ferries Not Fairies, The Start

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Brilliant yellow and orange leaves colored central Alberta’s trees, yet we woke to branches sagging under the weight of fresh overnight snow. It hadn’t accumulated on the roads and would probably all melt by later that day, but we didn’t stick around to find out.

For this October road-trip my brother and his wife joined Mister and I. We left shortly after sunrise for a scenic three B.C. Ferry, instead of the usual one, venture to Vancouver Island, British Columbia.

Our first day goal is always to make miles, put as much distance between us and home as we can. So after 10 1/2 hours in the van we arrived at Clinton, BC. Not as far as our younger selves would make in a day, but we also have more time now, since we’re all retired. (Gorilla Tape Saves The Holiday, talks about a morning mishap that delayed us.)

Clinton nestles in the hills of BC’s Cariboo region, and we were glad the historic Cariboo Lodge we booked was unharmed. The town was one of many evacuated during this summer’s devastating wildfires.

The next day we traveled highway #97 to #99. A pretty drive they say once it nears the river. A little high, and exposed (as in no guardrails) at times for me, but more so for the sister-in-law who has a height phobia.

Familiar with many roads, Mister or I, try to remember to have her sit on the side of the van which will be on the inside of the road when we’ll on a picturesque section like this. Where our heads were this particular morning, who knows.

Both us girl sat on the passenger side which offered unobstructed views across the narrow shoulder, off the edge, and into the valley far below. The men, being the boys they sometimes are, seemed to enjoy our muttered curses. Don’t get me wrong, I have faith in Mister’s driving. He did nothing crazy, but sometimes on roads like this it’s hard not to sweat and apply pressure to my invisible brake pedal.

At Lillooet’s Tourist Information/Museum we met one of my sisters and her husband and they joined and followed us for the rest of the trip.

The section of highway #99 leaving there needs a mention. If you have a tendency to get car-sick from side to side cornering motion, or travel in a large RV, be prepared if you head this way. Make sure your cupboards and fridge doors are latched, and you may want to have something handy if you’re prone to seatbelt rash on your neck.

Mister and I, do a lot of back-roads so we’ve been on many windy and even hair-raising paths, but this was a top five windiest road ever for us. It’s a pretty drive, just be aware. The good part was it isn’t as high and open as the previous stretch.

After lunch in Whistler, B.C. the Sandman Inn at Squamish, was our stop for the night. Another without ocean-views but we were within minutes of the first Ferry terminal.

In the morning we boarded the Horseshoe Bay ferry which goes to Langdale.

My advice if traveling on multiple B.C. ferries is to check into the, B.C. Ferry Experience card, it saved four of us in the one vehicle a hundred dollars overall.

Once across to land again our first stop was in, Gibsons. A small charming town some may have heard of because of the Canadian television series, “Beachcombers.” Filmed there from 1972-1990. It made the still operating waterside restaurant, Molly’s Reach, a well-known place.

Our next ferry departed further north on the Sunshine Coast highway 101, so after exploring Gibsons, off we went. This path goes through one of my favorite spots of the area, Sechelt. Unfortunately, on this trip we didn’t stop there or at any of the beaches along that stretch. All I’ll say as to why not, is communication skills were not 100% between Mister and I right then. A rarity but it happened.

We continued to Earls Cove for the ferry to Saltery Bay. From there it was a short drive to Powell River, and the first of our 11 ocean-side accommodations. Beach Gardens Resort Hotel, is older but with nice rooms and balconies facing a marina on Malaspina Strait.

We enjoyed beautiful sights, and it’s where the pictures for this post were taken. My brother’s candid shot of me and one I took of him the morning we left to board our third ferry, the one to Vancouver Island.

There are two places on the island where we stayed that deserve mentioning more than just their name so stay tuned to find out which they are and what made them special.

Have you been on a ferry?

Was it the large multi deck onewith restaurants and gift shops or the one open car level type?

These three we were on are the large type, but open ones travel between the many smaller islands and Vancouver Island.

I would also like to wish all my American readers

Happy Thanksgiving. Enjoy!!

Is This Lighthouse View Worth It?

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Roadside viewpoints, even with fantastic scenery, sometimes aren’t worth the anxiety getting to them causes.

You can’t really tell from the picture how high above sea level it is.

This is a promised post about a lighthouse visit forever etched in my mind.

In our average sized unit for Alberta, a 4×4 crew-cab truck and 30ft. fifth wheel RV, we set out on a cross Canada dream trip, celebrating Mister’s retirement.

The further east we traveled signs that a smaller unit would have been more practical started to occur. Like outside, Quebec City, when we pulled into a roadside rest area for lunch and the road back onto the highway made a tight half circle that was narrow and curbed on both sides with jagged rocks. Mister knew we were too long to make the bend, but it was the only exit. He drove slowly, and we hoped for the best, which was only one trailer tire’s sidewall being ripped open and the wheel hub damaged.

Thankfully, that was the only costly incident we encountered,

BUT

his driving skills were tested multiple times, and white knuckling on my part occasionally took place.

We started asking size related questions when heading to attractions. Then, if needed we would leave the RV at a nearby campground, or a couple times Mister got permission to park the 5th wheel for a few hours at tourist information centres.

I wish we had gotten a second opinion for one nerve-rattling adventure I call, “The road to hell.” Slightly inappropriately named, because in fact the road zigzagged up a mountain, and the destination was not hellish.

Before leaving our campground near Hopewell Rocks, NB. we asked a local fellow about getting to Cape Enrage Lighthouse. If we should pull our 5th there or not? If there would be parking? He replied, “It should be fine, tour buses go up there.”

That was good enough for Mister. The next morning we headed down highway 114 which became rough enough to make us wish for air ride seats.

We took the lighthouse exit, and soon it opened into a flat stretch. The ocean glittered on one side of the road, a marsh was on the other, but a massive, tree covered mountain loomed ahead.

There was a roadside gravel area there big enough to park, probably used by fisherman to get to the ocean, but a sign indicated several Kilometers yet to the lighthouse.

A squiggly switchback warning sign and a high incline percentage one also came into view, and that’s when my anxiety began.

I told mister, “It’s fine, we don’t have to continue.”

I suggested, “Since there’s room here, let’s just turn around.”

I reasoned, “There will be other lighthouses to see along our route.”

I even tried straight out stating, “Honest, I don’t want to go up there.”

I rambled and muttered more, but those were my main arguments.

Mister simply replied, “We’ve come this far, we’re not turning back. Quit worrying! If a bus can make it, we can.”

But, worry is what I do best.

I pleaded some more, but our speed remained steady, the discussion was over.

A cliché comes to mind, “Come hell or high water,” he was taking me to see that lighthouse. (Now, isn’t he sweet, or maybe he needed revenge for some previous nagging I’d done? Smiley face)

Don’t get me wrong, Mister’s driving skills impress me. He can also maneuver a trailer pretty much anywhere, but I really never wanted to find out if controlling a rig sliding backwards on a narrow mountain road was in his repertoire.

When we slowed for the first corner, I braced my feet on the floor and one arm on the console between us. My other hand clutched the dashboard, “Oh sh…!” handle. Why, I’m not sure, we weren’t going fast or off-roading. Another smile.

With only slight exaggeration, I swear on the tight switchbacks I could have stuck my arm out the window and been able to touch the side of the 5th wheel.

Oh, have I mentioned the road was hard topped but was littered with small pebbles.

When we crept up a particular steep and sharp hairpin turn, the truck began to spit those loose pebbles. My worst fear came to life, the tires lost traction, and we were sliding backwards.

Mister, all calm and collected steered and engaged the truck’s 4 wheel drive. We started to inch forward again.

I on the other hand, broke into a sweat, muttered curses and silently prayed.

Finally we got to the top where we had to stop on the road and help guide another unit around the corner so they could head back down the hill.

The actual parking lot had a designated spot for tour buses but the public part was not big enough for larger RV’s.

Mister found a grassy plateau before the lot and wedged our rig in so we could get out to explore and take pictures of the lighthouse. The views were spectacular, but I’m not sure they were worth my stress.

70 start of road to hell Cape Enrage NB

Road Before Cape Enrage Lighthouse

 

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Coming Down Again

If I’d known this story would become a blog post, I would’ve tried taking better or at least more pictures, and maybe washed the bugs off the windshield. Who am I kidding, between hanging on and my shaking hands I’m impressed I got these few. Pictures don’t do justice to heights, inclines, etc. anyway.

The trip down wasn’t much better for me because I couldn’t stop picturing those darn loose pebbles causing us to careen off the edge.

How busses negotiate the trip, I’ll never know, maybe traffic is stopped for them. For sure, I would never want to meet and have to pass one or any other big vehicle for that matter.

If planning to visit this sight, the scenery is gorgeous once up there but be aware of the road getting there, especially, if you are pulling an RV.

Do certain road conditions cause you anxiety?

Do you like road-trips?